Thai court drops treason charge against protesters

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Thailand's Court of Appeals watered down charges against nine leaders of an anti-government street campaign today, saying there was no way they had committed the capital offence of treason.

However, the court said the nine People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leaders might have committed public order offences carrying up to seven years in prison, and issued new arrest warrants.

Soon after the ruling, two PAD leaders in police custody were freed on bail of 100,000 baht (£1,676) each, their lawyer said.

The other seven leaders, barricaded inside the Government House compound they have occupied with thousands of supporters since late August, were considering their next move, a PAD spokesman said.

The original arrest orders were issued on 27 August, the day after PAD protesters armed with golf clubs, stakes and machetes stormed a state television station, broke into several ministries and overran the prime minister's official compound.

They have been in Government House ever since, making it the heart of a long-running anti-government campaign that spilled over into running battles with riot police on Tuesday in which two people died and 400 were injured.

Several police officers were shot, one was skewered with a flag pole and another was run over by a truck.

Amid public anger at what was seen as police brutality - at least six protesters had limbs blown off - 500 black-clad doctors and nurses marched on the national police headquarters today, demanding that the government stand down. "We condemn the barbaric act of a tyrannical government," one protest leader shouted, lambasting Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, who is accused of being a puppet of ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra, his brother-in-law.

"Somchai the Murderer. Somchai, Get Out," one placard read.

Police have denied PAD claims that they fired explosives into the crowd, insisting they only used teargas.

Several doctors at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok's top medical school, have launched a campaign to deny medical services to police or politicians involved in Tuesday's clashes, the worst street violence in Thailand in 16 years.